Diego Simeone insists Atletico Madrid still have plenty of work to do if they are to finish in LaLiga's top four and qualify for the Champions League.

Atleti beat fierce rivals Real Madrid 1-0 at Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday to move six points clear of fifth-placed Real Betis with three games to go.

Yannick Carrasco's 40th-minute penalty, awarded for Jesus Vallejo's barge on Matheus Cunha, was enough for Atletico to snap an 11-game winless run in this fixture.

Los Rojiblancos can seal a 10th straight season of Champions League football with three points against Elche on Wednesday, but Simeone is taking nothing for granted.

"There are three games left. Everyone is competing to finish fourth and it will not be easy," he told Movistar. "But of course this is a strong and decisive step for us.

"We played the game we wanted to play. We had many chances but couldn't be forceful and that pushed us to the limit against a rival that improves as the minutes go by."

Atletico hit the post through Carrasco late on and outshot their opponents 16 to 15, but just two of those attempts were on target – one of those being Carrasco's penalty.

Madrid had six shots on target by comparison – only against Cadiz have they tested the opposition goalkeeper more times in LaLiga this season (nine) without scoring.

Jan Oblak has struggled for form this season but produced a number of fine saves to help Atleti to their first ever win over Madrid at Wanda Metropolitano.

Indeed, those six saves are the most he has made in a single LaLiga match this campaign, surpassing the five he registered in March's 3-1 win against Betis.

 

Like head coach Simeone, though, the Atletico goalkeeper is not thinking of Champions League football just yet.

"We're still not sure of that," he said. "Until it's secured then the weight is going to be on us. On Wednesday we have to come out in the best way and get the three points.

"There are three games left, which is a lot. Hopefully we're not made to suffer until the last minutes."

Following their midweek trip to 14th-placed Elche, Atletico host Sevilla and then travel to Real Sociedad on the final day.

Diego Simeone was satisfied his Atletico Madrid players gave "everything" they had as they exited the Champions League quarter-finals at the hands of Manchester City on Wednesday.

The LaLiga side put in a spirited second-half display at the Wanda Metropolitano, yet a goalless draw meant they suffered a 1-0 aggregate defeat.  

The tetchy match spilled over in the closing stages, with both sets of players clashing after Felipe's foul on Phil Foden – a challenge that saw the defender receive a second yellow card.

Simeone was also booked in stoppage-time after entering the pitch in an apparent attempt to calm down Stefan Savic, who was involved in running battles with City players throughout the game.

The ugly scenes continued in the tunnel after the game as videos circulated on social media showing the players being separated by police.

Simeone did not want to be drawn on the controversy, instead hailing the efforts of his side and the contribution made by the home crowd, who gave the players a rousing reception at full-time.

"The reaction at the end shows the pride of seeing a team that competes," he told Movistar. "It gives us the peace of mind that we have given everything to get through the tie.

"The crowd was enormous throughout the match. The team responded to what the people were looking for and that relationship is difficult to see in the stadiums, that people respect you after being eliminated.

"What is clear to me is that we are proud of who we are, of how we compete. We are out and it hurts, but I love seeing people celebrate when things go well and not so well."

Asked if his attempts to encourage the crowd to clap in the closing minutes was in response to City's perceived time-wasting, Simeone said: "No, please. I was applauding people because I was appreciating the effort the team was making. How can I not applaud people like that?"

The result means Atleti are now winless in their past eight home games in the Champions League.

However, goalkeeper Jan Oblak, who only had one save to make on Wednesday, believes Atleti did enough over the two legs to progress to the last four.  

"It's a shame," he said. "We made a great effort, a great match, we deserved more. We are disappointed, but we did everything we could to score and win the match.

"In the first game, they were better and in the second, we were better. If you put the two games together, we've had more chances. In the end, it wasn't enough to go through to the semis."

Jan Oblak admitted Atletico Madrid must improve on their performance in defeat to Real Mallorca when they host Manchester City in the Champions League. 

Atletico face City in the second leg of their quarter-final at the Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday, trailing 1-0 from the first game in Manchester. 

They surprisingly lost by the same scoreline to relegation-threatened Mallorca at the Visit Mallorca Estadi on Saturday, with Vedat Muriqi's penalty settling a contest low on quality. 

LaLiga's reigning champions saw their six-game top-flight winning streak end abruptly but remain fourth – three points behind Sevilla in second. 

Oblak was unhappy with the decision to award the penalty after Reinildo was judged to have fouled Pablo Maffeo but conceded the Rojiblancos did not play well enough to win. 

"Things didn't work out today," the Slovenian goalkeeper said after the game. "Mallorca played a good defensive game. It was a difficult game. 

"In the end, with a dry pitch, with sun, with everything, it's complicated. I'm not looking for excuses. We have to do more and better. Today was not enough for the three points. 

 

"We didn't have [the Champions League game] in mind, but I'm sure the first leg has taken its toll. We've been a bit tired, heavy... We haven't played the game we had to play. Next it's City and we have to do much better to win on Wednesday. 

"Reinildo has also told me that it wasn't [a penalty]. I saw it from behind and it didn't seem like it to me. But if the VAR people don't want to warn him, nothing can be done. I've told the referee that it's not a penalty. Football is a contact sport and it can happen that after clearing the ball you touch someone. 

"The intensity wasn't at the level that it had to be for the whole team. In the end, you lose a game that you didn't have to lose. You can't let the other team play with more enthusiasm. You have to go in wanting to win and take the three points." 

Head coach Diego Simeone also dismissed the notion that his team had one eye on City. 

"We started the game well, but it was costing us," he told reporters. "We were elaborate, generated danger, but defensively they were very good. The penalty made us look to force a draw, but it wasn't to be. 

"It's easy to blame a lack of concentration, but we couldn't break their orderly and correct defense." 

Tuesday's Champions League fixtures feature two of the tournament favourites, but there are no easy games when the competition reaches the quarter-finals.

Manchester City are the bookmakers' favourites to lift the trophy but will need to safely navigate their way past 2020-21 LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid, starting with Tuesday's first leg at the Etihad Stadium.

Liverpool are right behind City in the odds, but the Reds face a tough trip to Portugal where they will play Benfica after the home side triumphed over a strong Ajax team in the previous round.

While the English teams are well fancied, the Opta facts show Atleti coach Diego Simeone should not be daunted by City boss Pep Guardiola, and Benfica's Estadio da Luz has been anything but a happy hunting ground for Liverpool.

Manchester City v Atletico Madrid

This will be the first ever meeting between City and Atleti in European competition, but the fourth between the respective bosses of the two clubs. None of the previous three games ended in a draw, as Guardiola won two and Simeone triumphed in the other.

While Simeone is down on the head-to-head record, his Atleti side eliminated Guardiola’s Bayern Munich in the semi-finals of the 2015-16 Champions League (2-2 on aggregate), progressing on away goals. 

Showing his side can win ugly, across the two legs, Atletico averaged just 27 per cent possession and scored their two goals from 18 shots, while Bayern netted the same number of goals from 53 attempts.

City should have some reliable avenues to goal, as only Vinicius Junior (44) has been directly involved in more shots than Riyad Mahrez (42 – 29 shots, 13 chances created) in the Champions League this season. 

 

One of Mahrez's chief suppliers is likely to be Kevin De Bruyne, who will make his 50th Champions League appearance for City if he plays in the first leg.

Since his first season at the club in 2015-16, he has more assists than any other player for an English club (17) in the competition. 

However, Atleti may be uniquely positioned to repel some of City's attacking firepower, as no goalkeeper has kept more Champions League clean sheets since 2014-15 than Jan Oblak, with 30 clean sheets in 67 appearances.

Meanwhile, City have only failed to score in one of their 28 home games under Guardiola.

Atleti are also the first side to face both Manchester United and Manchester City in the knockout stages of a European competition in a season since Juventus in the 1976-77 UEFA Cup – the Italian side would go on to progress from both of those ties before winning the whole thing.

 

Liverpool v Benfica 

Liverpool are aiming to win a fifth consecutive away game in Europe's premier competition for only the second time in their history, having last done so between 1983 and 1984 under Joe Fagan.

While Liverpool are a very different beast in recent years under Jurgen Klopp, they have lost on each of their last three away trips to face Benfica in European competition, with the most recent of those coming in the Europa League in 2009-10 under Rafa Benítez.

On the other hand, Benfica are winless in their past four homes matches against English sides in the Champions League since beating Liverpool in 2006, with one draw and three losses.

The home side will need a big performance from Darwin Nunez, who is Benfica’s top scorer in the Champions League this season, having netted four times so far. He is just one goal shy of equalling Nuno Gomes as the player with the most goals for Benfica in a single Champions League campaign (five goals in 1998-99).

Meanwhile, Liverpool boast one of the main hopes for the Ballon D'or in Mohamed Salah, who has scored eight goals in the Champions League this season and could become the first player to score 10+ goals in multiple seasons for the Reds in the competition. 

 

The only other player from an English club to reach double-figure goals in a European Cup/Champions League campaign on more than one occasion was Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2001-02 and 2002-03 for Manchester United.

Benfica will need to be efficient going forward, as their 40 per cent possession in the Champions League this season is the lowest of any remaining team, while only Real Madrid (23) have recorded more direct attacks than the Portuguese side.

The qualification campaign for the 2022 World Cup is all but over.

Some key matches still have to be played, with Wales yet to find out their fate as they wait to face the winner of Scotland's play-off with Ukraine, which has been postponed due to Russia's invasion of the country, while there are inter-confederation play-offs also to be decided.

In total, 28 nations have qualified already, and most of football's star names will be present.

That being said, while France's world champions will bid to defend their crown, Neymar will bring the Brazilian stardust, Lionel Messi will look to build on Argentina's Copa America triumph and Cristiano Ronaldo will feature at a record-equalling fifth tournament, some huge players - and indeed teams, in the case of Italy - will not be present in Qatar.

Stats Perform has looked at some of the star players who will be watching the tournament from home.

Mohamed Salah (Egypt)

Arguably the best player in the world this season, Salah will not be lighting up Qatar with any mazy runs or sensational strikes. Given the tournament is in the middle of next season, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp may secretly be pleased his talisman will not be risking injury or fatigue, but Salah – who blazed his penalty over in the decisive shoot-out against Senegal on Tuesday – will be a big miss.

 

James Rodriguez (Colombia)

A star of the 2014 World Cup, in which he won the golden boot, James Rodriguez scored Colombia's winner against Venezuela on Tuesday, yet Peru's victory over Paraguay meant the ex-Real Madrid playmaker and his team-mates will not appear in Qatar, where James currently plies his trade for Al-Rayyan.

Luis Diaz, who has made a flying start to life at Liverpool since joining from Porto in January, is another Colombian talent who will be watching on from the sidelines.

Gianluigi Donnarumma (Italy)

The hero of Italy's Euro 2020 triumph with his saves in the penalty shoot-out victory over England last July, Donnarumma – one of Europe's best goalkeepers – will be watching on from afar along with the rest of Roberto Mancini's players. After his error in Paris Saint-Germain's capitulation against Madrid in the Champions League, March has been a sour month for the 23-year-old.

Georgio Chiellini (Italy)

While Donnarumma has time on his side to make it to the next World Cup, the same cannot be said for Giorgio Chiellini. The centre-back is 37 and will surely not be featuring at another major tournament for Italy now.

Defensive partner Leonardo Bonucci may also fall into that category, given he turns 35 in May, while 29-year-old playmaker Marco Verratti may also have seen his final chance of appearing at the World Cup for a second time dashed.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden)

It was the battle of two of Europe's leading marksmen of the last decade on Tuesday, as Poland went head-to-head with Sweden, and it was Robert Lewandowski and Co. who came out on top, winning 2-0.

Bayern Munich star Lewandowski opened the scoring from the penalty spot, and though Ibrahimovic came on as a late substitute, he could not turn the tide in Sweden's favour. The Milan striker has suggested he wants to carry on playing for his country, but at 40, surely this was his last chance of appearing at a World Cup.

Erling Haaland (Norway)

Although Ibrahimovic may be approaching the tail-end of his career, Haaland is certainly not. Yet like the Swede, the Borussia Dortmund forward will not be playing in Qatar either.

Indeed, even if Norway had made it through their qualification group, it is uncertain as to whether or not the players would have chosen to boycott the tournament, having previously made their feelings on Qatar's human rights record clear. But they finished third in Group G anyway.

Arsenal playmaker Martin Odegaard is another bright Norweigian talent, though the Scandinavian nation may well fancy their chances heading towards Euro 2024 and the 2026 World Cup.

 

David Alaba (Austria)

Madrid defender Alaba could not inspire Austria to victory in their play-off clash with Wales, with Gareth Bale's double doing the damage. After a glittering career with Bayern, Alaba is on course to win LaLiga with Los Blancos, but any form of real, tangible success on the international stage looks set to avoid him.

Jan Oblak (Slovenia)

Oblak's form has dipped this season for Atletico Madrid but on his day he is still right up there among the world's best goalkeepers, though he could not help Slovenia finish higher than fourth in their qualification group, as their wait to qualify for a first World Cup since 2010 rolled on.

Koke says Atletico Madrid's improved defensive showings are now being reflected by their results after the captain scored in a 1-0 win over Rayo Vallecano.

After Atletico had managed just a single attempt on target despite bossing the first half, Koke bent a delicate strike into the bottom-right corner after a neat one-two with Joao Felix, handing Los Colchoneros a fifth consecutive win in LaLiga.

Koke's first strike of the campaign also saw him join a select group, becoming just the fifth man to score in each of the last 12 seasons in LaLiga, after Karim Benzema, Raul Garcia, Iker Muniain, and team-mate Antoine Griezmann.

The victory, which Atletico claimed despite Angel Correa's late red card, put last season's champions third in LaLiga, three points clear of Barcelona and five clear of Real Betis in the top-four race.

After downing Vallecano with his first goal since January 2021, Koke hailed the team's concentration levels and emphasised the importance of keeping a clean sheet.

"We have found the key," the 30-year-old told LaLiga TV. "We have all increased the intensity, the concentration. That is why we are in this dynamic. 

"We are playing very good games and that is reflected in the results. We have found the key both offensively and defensively. 

"We have conceded a lot of goals [prior to this run] and [now] we are managing to keep a clean sheet, which is important for us and has given us victories."

The shutout win saw Atletico boss Diego Simeone become just the fourth coach to oversee 200 clean sheets in LaLiga. After reaching that landmark in just 393 games, the Argentine has done so quicker than any of the previous three, namely Luis Aragones, Miguel Munoz, and Javier Irureta.

"Jan is always the best in the world," Koke added. "He proves it in every match. To score a goal [against Oblak], you have to score a great goal or get lucky. 

"For us it is good news that we did not concede a goal and Jan is very important."

Atletico have now conceded just twice in their last five league games, having shipped 10 goals in their previous five matches in LaLiga.

Simeone, meanwhile, highlighted the team's recent growth, and emphasised the contribution of Koke after his match-winning intervention. 

"The team has grown as a whole, and the individuals are having a very good level," Simeone said. "Lodi, Reinildo, Llorente, the return of Koke has given us a lot, De Paul 's [had] two very good games…

"The team is very strong when they work like this. It is repetitive to talk about Koke, they [the players] know what I think of him. He goes through bad times, but he accepts them. Some criticise him more than others, but he always gives us a lot."

Jan Oblak believes Atletico Madrid have turned a corner after battling to a 3-1 victory at Real Betis on Sunday.

Atleti followed up victories over Osasuna and Celta Vigo in LaLiga with three more points at Estadio Benito Villamarin to move above their opponents into fourth place.

Two goals for in-form Joao Felix, either side of Cristian Tello's equaliser deep in first-half stoppage time, was followed up by a late strike by Thomas Lemar.

After winning three league games in a row for the first time this term, Oblak feels confident his side can hold off the chasing pack and secure a Champions League berth.

"This is a different Atletico, we have to continue like this," Oblak told Movistar. "Only in this way can we reach the Champions League. 

"There's a long way to go. All the players and the coaching staff are involved in that. If we continue like this, we have no doubt [of finishing in the top four]."

 

Joao Felix has now scored four goals in his last four appearances in all competitions for Atletico, compared to three goals in his first 23 outings at club level this campaign.

He has scored two or more goals on five occasions for Los Colchoneros, though this is the first such occasion he has managed that since November 2020 against Cadiz.

While his output in front of goal has improved drastically in recent weeks, the Portugal international insists he has performed at a consistent level all campaign.

"Nothing has changed," he said. "I was also doing things well before, but goals were missing. Now they are arriving and I'm hoping to keep it up.

"As a team we are well-connected and clear about our objective. We are performing well and our attitude is good. When that is the case, the quality shows."

Atletico are two points better off than Betis, who slipped from third to fifth this weekend, and are level with Barcelona – 2-1 winners against Elche earlier on Sunday – in third.

Reflecting on a huge victory for his side with the pressure on, head coach Diego Simeone said: "We were facing a rival who is in a very good moment. 

"You have to play with humility, with the same spirit, and go game by game. We will now try to get better."

Kieran Trippier considers Jan Oblak the best goalkeeper in the world and would love to see him in the Premier League – perhaps even at Newcastle United.

Oblak has long been regarded among the very best around in his position, although his form for Atletico Madrid has deteriorated this season.

Having won the LaLiga title alongside the 29-year-old in 2020-21, however, ex-Atletico defender Trippier still holds him in high regard.

"From my time playing with him, the amount of points he saved us and his shot-stopping, for me, he's the best in the world, for sure," Trippier told 5 Live, speaking ahead of Atletico's game against Manchester United on Wednesday.

Oblak joined Atletico from Benfica in 2014 and has remained in Madrid ever since, but Trippier added he was "really surprised" a Premier League club had not made a serious move for the keeper.

"I think he'd be unbelievable in the Premier League, but obviously it's who could he go to? That's the question," the Newcastle man said.

"I've had conversations with him before about the Premier League. He's always asked me questions. Of course, I'd love to see him in the Premier League one day."

Big-spending Newcastle were then put forward, with Trippier asked if he was acting as the club's LaLiga scout.

"You never know," he replied with a laugh. "You never know what could happen."

Atletico's 1-1 draw with United was their first Champions League match since Trippier's January departure, but the England international is keen to return to the competition with Newcastle.

"Right now, the most important thing is staying in the league. We need to focus about now," he said. "Of course, it's a process, it's about building season by season.

"Newcastle want to be playing Champions League football, but the most important thing for us is Saturday against Brentford and then building a game at a time and then see where we are at the end of the season.

"It's about building, it's a project. Of course I want to be playing Champions League football and hopefully I can be with Newcastle."

Manchester United have not faced Atletico Madrid in European competition since the 1991-92 Cup Winners' Cup last 16, a tie the Spanish side won 4-1 on aggregate as Luis Aragones got the better of Alex Ferguson.

That was a meeting of two teams on the up: United were a year away from their first of 13 league titles under Ferguson, while Atleti would go on to win consecutive Copas del Rey, with a LaLiga triumph coming in 1996. Twenty years on, Atleti and United meet again in the last 16 of the Champions League, a competition neither is expected to win but one that represents the only means of salvaging their respectively rotten seasons.

It's a difficult one to call. United have become more resolute and less porous under Ralf Rangnick, losing just once over 90 minutes since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked in late November, but in their 15 games under their interim manager, they have not been tested by elite opposition. Atleti, champions last season, are 15 points off the pace set by Real Madrid in 2021-22 and, in the time Rangnick has been at Old Trafford, they have won six and lost eight of 15 matches in all competitions.

These are well-matched, dispirited teams, who occasionally thrill in attack but always unnerve in defence. Neither looks favourite to win, and neither can afford to lose.

It has, therefore, become a big-pressure situation for the goalkeepers – and that's where form starts to differ wildly.

This will be David de Gea's first competitive meeting with Atleti since he left for United in 2011. He probably didn't imagine he would win fewer league titles than his old club in the decade to follow, but that's another story.

De Gea can at least step onto the pitch at the Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday knowing he can claim to be one of the best in the business again based on form – a claim that opposite number Jan Oblak certainly can't make.

We know United have been extremely vulnerable this season. In all competitions, they have faced 465 shots, the fifth-highest tally among teams in Europe's top five leagues; 168 of those attempts have been on target, the third-highest number a team has faced. What is particularly worrying is that 21 of their opponents' shots have come directly from United mistakes, the highest number on the continent behind Sevilla (23).

Looking at expected goals on target – a way of measuring not just the quality of a chance (xG) but the quality of the attempt itself – United's figure against stands at 51.1 in all competitions, the third-worst among Europe's top five leagues. And yet, they have conceded 44 goals – far more than pretenders to trophies should be letting in, but around seven fewer than the numbers suggest they should. Much of that is down to De Gea.

In the Premier League alone, De Gea has made 96 saves from 128 shots on target faced, giving him a save percentage of 73.44. No other keeper has made as many stops and only Leeds United's Illan Meslier has faced more attempts, yet Meslier has conceded 50 goals to De Gea's 34. Using that same xGOT model and subtracting goals conceded (excluding own goals), we can work out a value for how many goals a keeper has prevented through saves. For De Gea, that figure is 7.1, the best in the league.

If you include all competitions, De Gea has faced the most shots on target (157) among top-five-league teams apart from Leicester City's Kasper Schmeichel (158), again showing just how fragile United can be without the ball. Looking at that 'goals prevented' metric again, De Gea is at 7.86 – in other words, he's prevented roughly eight goals through the quality of his shot-stopping. Across the continent, only two keepers to play at least 15 times this season can do better.

Preventing goals and high save percentages have traditionally been where Oblak thrives. Since his Atleti debut in September 2014, he has the most clean sheets (167) in Europe's top five leagues and a save percentage of 76.5, the third-highest. According to the data, Oblak has prevented just over 51 goals in that time, at least four more than any other keeper and nearly 20 more than De Gea. It makes his form this season all the more troubling.

Oblak has faced 50 fewer shots on target this season than De Gea – implying Atleti's defence is still stronger than United's, even accounting for their dip in standards – yet he has conceded five goals more than the Spain international. Oblak has saved 61, or 57 per cent, of the shots he has faced this season, which is an alarming drop from his career average of 76.52 per cent in Atleti colours.

Using that same 'goals prevented' calculation, Oblak is at -7.05, meaning he has conceded at least seven goals more than should reasonably be expected. Among Europe's top leagues, only seven keepers come off worse this season, and only four by a significant degree.

There is of course more to a keeper's value than the number of times the ball goes in his net, but these numbers give us a good indication of which ones are performing well when it comes to rudimentary shot-stopping. A 15-goal swing between De Gea and Oblak this season tells you everything you need to know about their recent standards, and why Atleti will have more cause for concern than United in this hugely important knockout tie.

Atletico Madrid have announced that goalkeeper Jan Oblak has tested positive for coronavirus.

The Slovenia international, Atletico's most used player this season, will now serve a period of self-isolation.

However, with a 12-day gap until Atleti travel to Barcelona for their next LaLiga outing, the 29-year-old is not expected to miss any matches.

A statement on the Spanish side's official website on Tuesday read: "Jan Oblak has tested positive for COVID-19. 

"Our goalkeeper remains isolated, strictly complying with the recommendations of the health authorities."

Oblak's 30 starts in all competitions this term is bettered by only two others – Jose Fonte and Antonio Rudiger (both 31) – among players from Europe's top five leagues.

He has conceded 26 goals in 21 LaLiga games this season from an expected goals (xG) against return of 18.46, with that negative 7.54 differential the worst in the division.

The 38 goals Oblak has conceded in all competitions this term across his 30 appearances is two more than he shipped in 46 games last time out.

Jan Oblak says Atletico Madrid's 2-1 Supercopa de Espana defeat to Athletic Bilbao was "difficult to explain" and warned they must solve their defensive frailties. 

The LaLiga champions looked set to face city rivals Real Madrid in the final at King Fahd Stadium on Sunday after Unai Simon's unfortunate own goal put them in front just after the hour-mark.

Yet the holders mounted a great fightback in Riyadh on Thursday, Yeray Alvarez rising to head in a corner from Iker Muniain after 77 minutes.

Teenage substitute Nico Williams won it for Athletic nine minutes from time, finishing clinically with his left foot from inside the penalty area after Diego Simeone's side failed to deal with another corner.

Jose Gimenez's red card for a dangerous challenge on Inigo Martinez added insult to injury for Atleti.

Atleti have been vulnerable from set-pieces all season and goalkeeper Oblak says they have to tighten up.

He told MoviStar: "It is difficult to explain. Two set-pieces and this year we have conceded a lot [from set-pieces].

"We wanted to reach the final, we wanted to win the Super Cup, but we didn't do enough. I wish Athletic the best in the world, they won and they deserve to be there."

He added of Atleti's issues with defending set-pieces: "It is the question we want to solve, a lot of goals conceded this year. Many due to our failures. 

"It sure is a difficult time. You have a game like today where you go 1-0 and they score two goals from set-pieces.

"It is difficult to explain, we have to find the answer to this question. If it is not going to be complicated until the end of the season."

Oblak says Atleti can have no complaints with their defeat and must show a positive response.

"We have not played a good game. The plan was not that, it was to press and have more of the ball. The whole team is disappointed," he said.

"It is a difficult moment, you have to get up, with your head up, improve a lot. Each defeat is very hard and this one more because it was to go to a final for a title that we wanted a lot.

"We can talk, but words are useless until we solve it on the field."

December 23 marks the 10th anniversary of Diego Simeone's appointment as the head coach of Atletico Madrid.

The Argentine's return to his old club altered the modern history of LaLiga, as Atleti firmly established a 'big three' in Spain alongside Real Madrid and Barcelona while making waves in Europe.

While their style of play has not always courted admirers, Simeone's Atletico have won eight trophies – including two LaLiga titles and two Europa Leagues – and twice reached the Champions League final, all on a budget that has never matched that of their two biggest rivals.

In his decade in the capital, Simeone has also worked through a sizeable turnover of players, some of whom have established themselves as modern greats at the club.

Here, Stats Perform attempts to select a best XI from Cholo's time in charge...

Jan Oblak

Replacing Thibaut Courtois was no easy task, but signing Jan Oblak for €16million has proven to be an outstanding piece of business.

An invaluable part of Atletico's imperious rearguard, Oblak set a record for the fewest matches needed to record 100 clean sheets in LaLiga last July (182), helping his side to the league title – one of four trophies in his time at the club.

Oblak has won the Zamora Trophy – given to the keeper with the best goals-against-per-game ratio – in four of the past five seasons.

Juanfran

He might have developed at Real Madrid, but Juanfran became one of Atleti's most dependable and beloved players under Simeone.

A winger as a younger player, Juanfran was a strong attacking outlet as well as being reliable in defence at a time when Atleti's biggest rivals boasted Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo at their peak. It was cruel that he should miss a penalty in the Champions League final shoot-out defeat to Madrid in 2016.

Although he won seven trophies before leaving for Sao Paulo in 2019, Juanfran told supporters at his farewell reception: "You singing my name was better than winning titles."

Diego Godin

Signed the year before Simeone's arrival, Godin became the rock on which Atleti's redoubtable defence was built, playing 389 games before departing at the end of 2018-19 – a record for a foreign player at the club.

A winner of eight trophies under Simeone, the Uruguay centre-back was twice included on the Ballon d'Or shortlist as he formed a formidable partnership with Miranda and later compatriot Jose Gimenez. There are some who consider Godin, who became captain, to be the greatest defender ever to play for the club.

There are suggestions he could return to the Wanda Metropolitano should he leave Cagliari in the coming weeks.

Jose Gimenez

Gimenez had to wait for his chance, linking up with Atletico for the title-winning 2013-14 season as an 18-year-old and finding Miranda blocking his path. However, the veteran soon moved on to Inter and was scarcely missed.

Gimenez, who remains at Atleti and is still only 26, had the benefit of playing alongside Godin at international level, quickly forging a strong partnership after his 2013 Uruguay debut. At international level, he may well be the man to pass his colleague's record caps haul.

Simeone's latest stalwart has already continued his fine performances at club level beyond Godin's career, named as one of four captains immediately after the older man's departure. Only hamstring injuries have slowed Gimenez to this point, but he has plenty of time left to add to his legacy.

Filipe Luis

Atletico's outstanding 2013-14 season attracted the attention of some of Europe's biggest clubs – or at least one of them. Chelsea recalled Courtois and returned to sign two more title-winning stars: Filipe Luis and Diego Costa.

Both men eventually returned to Simeone's ranks, but Filipe Luis' Premier League move was particularly underwhelming. Jose Mourinho's Stamford Bridge rebuild found room for one of Europe's outstanding full-backs only as a back-up, with the Brazil international restricted to 939 league minutes – merely the 16th-most in that triumphant Chelsea side.

Atleti were only too happy to welcome Filipe Luis back the following year, installing him again as a regular in Simeone's sturdy defence.

Koke

Koke made his Atletico debut more than two years prior to Simeone's appointment and is still at the club as captain, aged only 29. He may even break Adelardo Rodriguez's club appearance record of 551 before the end of the season, now 30 short.

Under Simeone alone, Koke has turned out on 486 occasions, by far the most of any Atleti player, as he has had a big hand in the coach's various successes.

The midfielder emerged too late to contribute to Spain's international titles between 2008 and 2012 but was instead identified as Xavi's successor by the man himself. "An extraordinary footballer," according to a man who knows a thing or two about such players, Koke has consistently delivered at club level.

Gabi

A Marca column this year identified two potential successors to Simeone, two former players who are "pure Atletico Madrid". Fernando Torres is one; Gabi is the other.

Madrid-born Gabi epitomised Simeone's side with his dogged approach, having been selected as captain by the coach he played alongside in his first spell at the club.

"We weren't the best technically, but we were the best in terms of our belief," Gabi reflected of an Atleti stint that included six major honours – a description that fits both iconic player and team.

Marcos Llorente

Probably the most surprising choice in this XI, Llorente has undoubtedly proven himself an invaluable asset to Simeone since his move across the city in 2019.

Nominally a holding midfielder, the Spain international has been deployed to great effect in a more attacking role, not least in scoring twice at Anfield to knock Liverpool out of the 2019-20 Champions League.

Llorente has also filled in at full-back, that versatility earning him a starting spot on the right-hand side of Luis Enrique's line-up at Euro 2020. There are few players more accomplished at adopting different roles in Simeone's demanding set-up.

Antoine Griezmann

His 'Decision' about staying at Atletico in 2018 – and then promptly signing for Barcelona anyway a year later – upset plenty of Atletico fans, but there is little doubt about Griezmann's contribution to Simeone's success.

Griezmann has scored 140 goals and provided 148 assists for Atletico; since Simeone took charge, the next highest on the list for direct goal involvements is Koke on 137. And Griezmann was not even an Atletico player for the first two and a half years of the Cholo era.

The France international has twice come third in the Ballon d'Or standings while playing for Atleti, in 2016 and then 2018. Had it not been for a costly penalty miss in the Champions League final five years ago, he could well have got his hands on the prize.

Diego Costa

Fiery and formidable, Costa was the archetypal Simeone striker, and a player at the heart of one of the club's greatest modern seasons.

Initially a back-up to Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan, and having battled a knee injury in 2011, Costa became an established player in the side in 2012-13, scoring in the Copa del Rey final win over Real Madrid.

Then, in 2013-14, he scored 27 LaLiga goals as Atleti claimed an incredible title triumph, and a further eight in nine games to propel them to the Champions League final. Simeone's attempt to rush him back from a hamstring injury for that game backfired, though: he lasted eight minutes of the match, which Atleti lost 4-1 after extra time.

Radamel Falcao

Described by Marca in 2012 as "the best signing of the 21st century", Radamel Falcao enjoyed two explosive seasons in Madrid as he cemented his reputation as the world's most feared number nine.

A club-record €40m signing in August 2011, the Colombia striker scored 36 goals in his debut season, including 12 in Atleti's victorious Europa League run – a competition he won the season before with Porto.

He started 2012-13 with consecutive hat-tricks, including against Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup, ending the season with 34 goals in all competitions. He also set up Diego Costa to score as Atleti beat Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final.

Diego Simeone said Atletico Madrid always find new ways to excite him as the Colchoneros boss savoured the team's dramatic progress to the Champions League last 16.

Atletico prevailed in Tuesday's do-or-die battle away to Porto on matchday six, defeating the Portuguese hosts 3-1 to book their spot in the knockout phase.

Simeone's Atletico required a victory and hoped Milan failed to beat Liverpool elsewhere in Group B, and the stars aligned for the stuttering LaLiga champions.

Antoine Griezmann, Angel Correa and Rodrigo de Paul scored to earn Atletico victory in a match that saw three players sent off – Yannick Carrasco received his marching orders, while Porto duo Wendell and Marchesin were also dismissed amid chaotic scenes as three goals were scored after the 90th minute.

Simeone, who has guided Atletico to two LaLiga titles and a pair of Champions League runners-up appearances during his decade-long tenure in the Spanish capital, could not contain his emotions.

"I've been at this club for 10 years and the team always ends up exciting me in new ways," Atletico head coach Simeone said.

"The difficulties, the fact that we didn't have three of our four centre-backs, but there are players with few minutes who are still so important to us. Today it was [Sime] Vrsaljko’s turn, we knew he could do his job. [Geoffrey] Kondogbia is the same.

"The whole team got involved in the game, gave everything, put their hearts into it. We have a goalkeeper who delivered in moments of difficulty. In the second half, if they had scored from that chance, they win.

"Today was a beautiful day, a great day. The boys from the youth team made it through and I wanted to as well. They gave us the ambition of wanting to make it through. We are going to remember this as one of the classic Champions League matches of our lifetime, against a great team in a tough game. We're similar.

"The game had everything – sendings off, chances. Football, how beautiful."

Porto against Atletico was the first ever Champions League game to see as many as three goals scored in the 90th minute (including stoppage time), while the fixture was the first in the premier club competition to have as many as three red cards since 2013.

Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak said: "It's been an incredible night. I'm very happy with the victory, for the team and the fans. I'm sure many people didn't believe in us but it's in matches like these where we show what a team we really are and that we are such a strong group.

"You have to keep your head up when you lose and, when things don't go your way, you have to keep playing as if your life depends on it. We can't be at our best throughout the season but you have to keep on going.

"There's no limit to what we can do and when we have to dig our heels in we do it. I wish we didn't have to suffer so much but this is football: it's not always easy."

Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak remains confident the Spanish giants can still advance to the Champions League knockout stage, despite their hopes being dealt a blow following back-to-back defeats to Liverpool.

Atletico endured a night to forget at Anfield, where the LaLiga champions had Felipe sent off in the first half of Wednesday's 2-0 loss against Liverpool, who progressed.

Beaten 3-2 in the reverse fixture in the Spanish capital, having also lost Antoine Griezmann to a red card on matchday three last month, Atletico conceded goals to Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane before Felipe was dismissed for a cynical foul on the latter and subsequent apparent dissent.

Atletico huffed and puffed but could not find their way back into the Group B contest, with the result leaving Diego Simeone's men third and a point behind Porto for the second last-16 berth heading into the final two games.

"They scored two easy goals against us, which can't happen," Oblak told Movistar Plus. "After two goals like that, it's difficult to come back, especially with a man less.

"So the feeling isn't the best, but I do think the team fought. We did all we could. In the end we lost 2-0, but it's still open [the group]. We depend on ourselves, and we have to win the two games to come."

Atletico lost back-to-back Champions League group-stage games for only the second time under head coach Simeone, also doing so in November 2019.

The capital club also conceded two goals in the first half of consecutive Champions League games for the first time after 105 matches.

"Today, the two goals were too easy – we all know that, the whole team does. I don't know what is happening," said Oblak.

"We have to improve in this respect, and I am sure once we improve at the back, we're going to have better results.

"This is difficult to explain; it's the whole team, it's not just one player but the whole team, and we all have to do better to concede as few goals as possible."

Atletico host Milan on November 24 before travelling to Porto for their final group fixture on December 7.

Oblak added: "We depend on ourselves. We have to win the two games that remain. It won't be easy – we all know that – and we have to give our best version of ourselves and do our best.

"With our quality, if we show it on the field, we can win the two games and get through to the last 16."

Real Madrid's pursuit of Paris Saint-Germain's 22-year-old forward Kylian Mbappe has been widely observed.

Los Blancos could not prise the France striker away from PSG during the last transfer window but may be ready to enter the market in a major way next year.

Carlo Ancelotti took over as Madrid head coach in June and is beginning to build his side.

 

TOP STORY –   REAL CONFIDENT OF HUGE DOUBLE SIGNING

The Sun reports that Real Madrid are confident of signing both Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe next year.

The report claims securing Pogba's signature would help Los Blancos clinch a deal for the Paris Saint-Germain star who is a France team-mate.

Pogba is out of contract with Manchester United at the end of this season, while Mbappe has stalled on an extension with PSG and appears set to exit.

ROUND-UP

- Madrid are also interested in signing Italy international Federico Chiesa from Juventus, reports Fichajes.

- Atletico Madrid, Juventus and Tottenham are keen on Fiorentina's Serbian forward Dusan Vlahovic, but Mundo Deportivo reports La Viola have set a €70million (£59m) asking price for him.

- Roma are willing to offload Everton target Gonzalo Villar in the January transfer window in order to raise funds to move for Borussia Monchengladbach's Denis Zakaria, claims Tuttomercatoweb.

- Liverpool are leading the race to sign highly sought-after Belgian talent Jeremy Doku who is currently with Rennes, reports RTL.

- Sky Sports reports that Atletico Madrid are eager to complete new deals for Jan Oblak and Thomas Lemar, with talks under way.

- Tottenham's Ryan Sessegnon could be offered a fresh start by Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, according to Takvim.

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